IT workers feel personal and professional effects of terrorist attacks

The effects of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 have reverberated through the IT world in many ways. The results of our survey show how some of our members have been affected by the attacks and what they predict for their firms in the months ahead.

When the World Trade Center towers in New York City and one side of the Pentagon collapsed on Sept. 11, people around the world were shocked by these brutal attacks. Many of the world's countries lost citizens, and thousands of families lost loved ones.

Businesses also lost employees and leadership. The stock market plunged, and businesses went under or were significantly impaired. Because information technology is so tightly woven into the fabric of modern business, it is inevitable that IT professionals, too, would be personally affected by the stunning loss of life from these attacks.
Figure A
About one-third of poll respondents lost employees, employee family members, or business colleagues in the attacks.

TechRepublic asked IT pros recently about the attacks' immediate effect and its aftershocks on the IT world. Twelve percent of those who took our survey indicated that they were personally affected by the World Trade Center or Pentagon attacks through the loss of an employee or employee family members. Another 19 percent lost a business colleague (see Figure A, above). But the bad news didn't end there. Seventy-nine percent of respondents also said that the attacks and their aftermath had adversely affected their business on some level (see Figure A, Q.2).

In the wake of the disaster, many organizations have now rethought disaster planning, and the economic impact of the attacks is causing businesses to reroute budget funds to increase security measures. We'll look at what our members said about the scope of these changes, and we'll share their predictions about technology's role in preventing further attacks.

Planning for a disaster
In a terrifyingly short amount of time, businesses that were located in the World Trade Center found out firsthand just how important it is for an organization to be prepared in the event of a disaster. Watching the events unfold that day, and the business fallout afterward, caused organizations to rethink their approach to disaster recovery efforts.
Figure B
While not many organizations had to implement a disaster plan, most of those who did believe their plans worked well.

Thankfully, we found that almost three-quarters of the members who took our survey said that their organizations did have a disaster recovery plan in place even if they didn't have to use it during or after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon (see Figure B, above).

The majority of those who had to implement disaster recovery plans as a result of the attacks rated their plans with a grade of “B” (see Figure B, Q.2), and most did give their plans a passing grade.

But perhaps the most surprising finding from the survey is that slightly more than half of the companies who didn't have a disaster recovery plan before Sept. 11 said that this tragedy hasn't inspired them to create one. Forty-eight percent said they would be developing a plan (see Figure B, Q.3).

How will IT department budgets be affected?
Our survey also asked about the effects that the attacks will have on IT budgets and departments in the short and the long term. Fifty-five percent of respondents said they will be reducing expenses such as travel and training, while 37 percent will delay or cancel purchases. About a third of the members who took the survey do not see the predicted economic slowdown having a negative effect on their IT budgets (see Figure C, below).
Figure C
Most respondents predict a negative impact on their IT budgets due to the economic aftermath of Sept. 11.

Roughly half of our survey respondents do not plan to increase outsourcing or funding for several disaster-related networking issues. If any money is allocated to a disaster-related issue, the first two areas to receive funds would likely be network security (25 percent of respondents) or communications redundancy (22 percent), respondents said (see Figure C, Q.2).

Security solutions
We also asked our members which technological security solutions they think are the most promising for preventing future disasters.

Nearly three-quarters said that better networking of national and state databases with those of the CIA and FBI would help to locate wanted people (see Figure C, Q.3). More than half think that airplanes should have panic buttons in the cockpit that would allow an autopilot program to take over flying the aircraft and then land it at a nearby airport.

As the government and the private sector respond to these attacks and prepare for future ones, it is certain that information technology will be part of the solution. Whether it’s increasing security at airports or building a national law enforcement database, IT professionals will have a role in addressing and strengthening the nation’s defenses against these newly realized terrorist threats.

Thanks for taking our survey!
Our surveys are yet another way TechRepublic members can share their views with their peers. If you would like to say something more about the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, feel free to post a comment in the discussion below.


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